I wrote this recently for The Columban, the magazine of the Goulburn & District Congregations of the UCA:
I’m often struck by how much of life is spent waiting. As a child, I waited to be grown up. Now, I wait for my own to grow up! I’m often waiting—in airports, in hospitals, or just for the water to boil.
Yesterday, I bought something, but when the shop assistant tried to get my receipt, the computer decided it was having a slow day. We waited. About two minutes all up. She apologised. I told her it didn’t matter, I was trying not to hurry through life. She looked confused and apologised again. We didn’t connect.
Waiting seems to be a counter-cultural thing to do. It wasn’t always so; our ancestors waited for the sun to come up, rather than switch on a light. But Advent is still a time for waiting. Mary waited, as do all expectant mothers. John the Baptiser waited for the One Who Was To Come. We wait for Christmas, and as we see the child-agony of waiting on the faces of our children and grandchildren, we remember our own.
We’re still waiting. Waiting for the fullness of Christ, the kingdom of God, the transformation of the world. Are we foolish to wait? Barack Obama has just been elected President of the United States of America. You’d think our waiting is over, judging by some of the reaction.
What are we waiting for right now? In Advent 2008? Is it a world-weary waiting for Christmas to be over for another year? Is it waiting for death? Have we stopped waiting because there’s nothing to hope for? Or here, in the unfulfilled yet real gift of the Spirit, do we wait, yearn, for the fullness of Christ? As we anticipate Christmas, do we pray for the world, so that it may be healed?
I’m convinced that waiting is a gift of God. I meant it when I told the shop assistant I was trying not to hurry through life. (Just as well—I’ve got to take the item back today!). Only then can we live truly in the moment, while anticipating God’s promised transformation of our world. This waiting isn’t passive; it’s a time for prayer and thanksgiving and looking for the opportunities to serve that God brings our way. Waiting is a gift just waiting to be received.